Scene 8: Meeting the Key Planners


During the initial preparatory research there was little contact between our teams and our sponsors, Johan and Levona. Fortunately upon arrival in the project centre we were able to meet with Levona, who gave us social and political insights on the community of 7de Laan as well as facilitating our trips to the 7de Laan community. In preparation for our meeting with Johan we brought a presentation which covered the essential elements of the work and research from the prior term as well as the thematically developed areas of concern in 7de Laan. Through talking to Johan and other government officials we hoped to learn the scope and expectations of our project.

Cast of Characters

WPI Project Team
WPI Professors: Scott Jiusto, Lorraine Higgins
City Employees: Johan Gerber, Levona Powell, Greg , Siraaj, Gugu, and Mlungisi


The City of Cape Town Civic Centre.


After some initial technical difficulties, our team moved into presenting our preparatory research.  We explained that during the preparatory phase we worked as two teams, one focusing on social development and the other focusing on infrastructure.  After giving an overview of our background knowledge, we dove into the four themes that have developed through our visits to 7de Laan, Plot 9, and City Mission – safety, stability, security, and social equality.

Next, rather than focus on our background knowledge of informal settlements discussion shifted to our agenda.  We soon found out that there is a grey-area when the government is managing the affairs of informal settlements.  Gugu explained the formal process for development as described in the “Red Book”, an official engineering guide on formal housing developments.  Johan elaborated that informal settlements do not follow formal processes and that the government can only provide informal structures to people in the form of a fire-kit if a shack had burned down.  Levona made it clear that prior to our visit the community was willing to move to a location with improved shacks, but have since been promised housing by someone and therefore are now unwilling to move.  Johan is a proponent of reblocking but explained that the government will only contribute some materials.  NGOs are the organizations that can provide planning and materials, but the community is still generally expected to contribute 20% of the cost of the structures; in a community with high unemployment rates such as 7de Laan this can be very difficult.

Ultimately the City of Cape Town wishes to reach a solution that is beneficial to the community and the government.  Johan explained how the initial idea was to “eradicate” the smaller settlements and consolidate them into larger settlements so that services will be easier for the government to provide and will be available to a greater population.  Now that the community has not expressed much interest in moving, Johan suggested “improvements” rather than upgrades to the 7de Laan community. This is to improve the quality of life in the area incrementally and entice some of the smaller settlements into relocating there.

Education is a key topic of discussion that came up in the later part of the meeting.  Greg spoke about drug concerns in the community and how all that can really be done is rely on police response and their substance abuse unit.  Levona brought up that last week a new centre was established for people that can’t afford treatment or counselling.  This is important because drug lords use informal settlements because of the lack of police presence, which makes it an easy environment to operate in.  Siraaj noted that in many cases simply educating the community on how to use certain services and facilities will aid maintenance.  Johan described the conundrum as that many times the people have the mind-set, “Why should I look after it if someone else doesn’t?”  The solution lies in altering that mind-set to be, “If I don’t look after it, how can I expect someone else to look after it?” On that note Levona mentioned an informal settlement located on Springfield Road that embodies many of those principles that we should investigate in the near future.


This meeting progressed our knowledge of the contacts that are available to us.  Hopefully, by meeting new faces like Siraaj, Greg, and Gugu we will be able to understand further the scope of informal improvements through planning, engineering, and managing.  Despite the addition of potential contacts, we left the meeting just about as confused as we went into it.  Johan and Levona have not been consistent with each other and sometimes even themselves on what the goal of the project is; whether it is to consolidate the smaller settlements into a larger one, or to implement improvements in the 7de Laan community to entice consolidation further down the road.  This has been challenging for ourselves and our advisers in the progression of our project work due to the short time frame in which we are in Cape Town.  It is our hope that in the upcoming sub-council and community meetings it will become clearer as to what lies ahead in the weeks to come.